Accomplishing More Together: Influences to the Quality of Professional Relationships between Special Educators and Paraprofessionals

Elizabeth E. Biggs, Carly B. Gilson, Erik W. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fostering and maintaining strong collaborative relationships are critically important for paraprofessionals and special education teachers working together to provide a high-quality education for students with severe disabilities. Through in-depth interviews with 22 teachers and paraprofessionals comprising nine educational teams, we examined educator perspectives on what influences the quality of their professional relationships, as well as how their perspectives on these influences converged or diverged. Teachers and paraprofessionals identified five themes of influences to the quality of their relationships: teacher influences, paraprofessional influences, shared influences (i.e., related to the collective efforts of teachers and paraprofessionals), administrative influences (i.e., related to school and district leaders), and underlying influences (i.e., related to contextual or other factors). The findings highlight the complex nature of these relationships and emphasize the importance of supporting teachers and paraprofessionals as they work together to meet the needs of students with severe disabilities. We offer recommendations for future research and practice aimed at strengthening the quality and impact of special educator-paraprofessional collaborations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-272
Number of pages17
JournalResearch and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • autism
  • collaboration
  • intellectual disability
  • paraprofessionals
  • severe disabilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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